Davis residents can now view local COVID-19 rates, tracked via sewage testing

Healthy Central Valley Together is currently conducting COVID-19 sewage testing in Davis

By SYDNEY AMESTOY — [email protected]

Residents of Davis, as well as residents of select other Central Valley communities, can now check local COVID-19 rates based on their city’s wastewater through the Healthy Central Valley Together (HCVT) program, a collaboration between researchers at UC Davis and UC Merced.

According to HCVT websitethe program is currently tracking the spread of COVID-19 via sewage from water treatment plants in the cities of Davis, Woodland, Winters, Esparto, Merced, Turlock, Modesto and Los Banos.

Dr. Heather Bischel, an assistant professor at UC Davis and one of the project’s principal investigators, described the scope of the project’s recent expansion.

“We are working with seven new cities and their wastewater treatment plants to measure rates of COVID-19, and are working with public health departments in three different counties to increase access to public health data,” said Bischel.

Data for each community, including Davis, can be found on the HCVT website and measurements for three different variants of SARS-CoV-2. According to the website, information from local wastewater sampling is updated once or twice a week.

“This type of testing is not biased by the testing behavior involved in people going out and getting tested or taking a home test in which that information is not reported to a public health worker,” said Bischel, “As home testing becomes more popular, public health agencies get less information and this gap in data can be measured through sewage tracking.

According to Bischel, the monitoring project’s expansion into the Central Valley, as well as other towns in Yolo County, arose due to a lack of COVID-19 wastewater monitoring in those communities.

“There was a real gap [wastewater] surveillance,” Bischel said. “Most of the monitoring was done in urban or coastal areas and fewer areas in more rural or deprived communities. Knowing this was valuable public health knowledge, we wanted to work with smaller rural communities.

Colleen Naughton, an assistant professor at UC Merced and another principal investigator on the project, also spoke about the goal of improving wastewater testing in underprivileged communities.

“We do a lot of advocacy to expand [wastewater tracking] to other communities, even if it’s not through us,” Naughton said.

“The framework for Healthy Central Valley Together is equity, and as we grow and think long-term, we should prioritize communities that have less access to public health data,” Dr. Bischel said.

The information collected from HCVT is not only found on their website, but is also part of the California Wastewater System Monitoring, also known as the ‘Cal-SuWers,’ according to Naughton.

“All data submitted to the [Center for Disease Control and Prevention] national wastewater monitoring system, goes through the California monitoring program,” Naughton said, “So either [Cal-SuWers] do the surveillance and data themselves, or they partner with organizations such as Healthy Central Valley Together, SCAN (Stanford University’s Sewer Coronavirus Alert Network) or other surveillance organizations and coordinate this data as part of their state funding.

Written by: Sydney Amestoy — [email protected]

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